For Shelley Baiden, the swelling in her legs became as much a mental burden as a physical one.
“It was absolutely pathetic,” says the Pawleys Island resident, 82. “I was embarrassed. I couldn’t wear jeans because the legs were too tight. I couldn’t even get into shoes – that’s how bad they were.”
At one point, the swelling in her lower legs climbed to her thighs. It caused her legs to ache and sometimes led to sharp pain.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to be like this,’” she says.
After struggling with the condition for about a year, Baiden met with clinical specialist and physical therapist Amy Parker at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services at Murrells Inlet.
Parker began treating Baiden for lymphedema, a type of swelling caused by an accumulation of protein-rich fluid that’s typically drained through the body’s lymphatic system.
Lymphedema can be a side effect of cancer treatments that involve removal or damage to lymph nodes. Parker, who specializes in treating the condition, says about half her lymphedema patients are cancer survivors.
Baiden is among the other half with no clear underlying reason for developing lymphedema, which can also be hereditary or result from vein and circulatory conditions, obesity, infections and other causes.
Baiden, who was born in Loris, is an avid gardener and a former golfer. She loves spending time outdoors and with her family – husband, Frank “Ebbie” Edward, five children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Two of Baiden’s daughters are registered nurses, and they urged her to seek treatment when the swelling began. Since then, Baiden has become a stickler for following her treatment plan.
“I’ve done everything they’ve told me to do,” she says.
Through her hard work, she has seen her lymphedema symptoms — and quality of life — improve.
“When she started, she was having a lot of discomfort in her legs,” Parker says. “She was reporting a lot of itching, which comes from stagnant fluid.”
After more than two months of treatment, Baiden’s leg circumference began to shrink.
“She hasn’t been back to the clinic in almost a year, so she’s maintaining her condition very well,” Parker says.
Although there’s no cure for lymphedema, treatment can help keep it manageable. If you’re struggling with the condition, speak to your physician or other qualified care provider, who can refer you to a physical therapist like Parker, who has completed specialized certifications to treat the condition and help people get back to the activities they enjoy.
Baiden’s treatment regimen includes wearing compression stockings every day and using a compression pump twice a day.
And she stays active.
“I feel that when I’m sitting down something needs to be done,” she says. “I garden, I do my housework. Most people think I’m crazy – I love to do housework.”